As of December 31, 2014, I retired from full-time teaching in Humboldt State University's Department of History. While this website will remain online, it is no longer maintained.
History 110 - Dr. Gayle Olson-Raymer
Reading Guide for
Confederates in the Attic
Directions: Below, you will find questions for each chapter that will help you think about the messages within Confederates in the Attic that will help you better understand the causes and long-term consequences of the Civl War, as the way the Civil War is remembered in some segments of contemporary Southern society.
Access this interactive map of Major Civil War Battles
Border States - After Fort Sumter, the northern-tier of the slaveholding states were still undecided about whether to secede - Maryland, Delaware, Kentucky, Missouri. These four states in the Upper South had: 2/3 of the Southís entire white population; 3/4 of the Southís industrial production; and over half of all its food and fuel. Furthermore, each controlled vital assets:
Mason and Dixon Line - Two different meanings of the term exist: (1) The original Mason-Dixon Line, as surveyed by Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon in 1763 to 1767, which is precisely defined and restricted to the Pennsylvania/Maryland border (which runs east-west) and that part of the Maryland/Delaware border which runs approximately north-south. (2) The meanings given to the term "Mason-Dixon Line", such as the border between the free states and the slave states in the first half of the eighteenth century, or the border between the Union states and the Confederate states during the American Civil War.
Neo-Confederate Movement - Neo-Confederates believe that with the Civil War, Lincoln was able to expand the power of the federal government beyond constitutional limits, and that with the defeat of the Confederacy the ideals of states' rights were defeated. They believe that the 14th Amendment was illegally adopted. To them this has resulted in the growth of federal government into a Leviathan, a very large monstrous beast in the bible. The neo-Confederate historical worldview encompasses all of American history, not just the Civil War, Reconstruction, and the South. The American Revolution in particular has a prominent place. Neo-Confederate writings on the subject work to define original intentions to justify both current political beliefs and the actions of their historical heroes, such as secession. M.E. Bradford wrote several books on the American Revolution. In this historical view big government, integration and Brown vs. Brown, gay rights, civil rights, feminism, minorities, taxes, FDR, and other issues can be viewed as the result of the American Republic jumping the tracks during the Civil War and being out of control. The neo-Confederates seek to capitalize on discontent with these issues. For an outstanding, contemporary understanding of the movement, see the Southern Poverty Law Center's Intelligence Report, "Rebels with a Cause," at http://www.splcenter.org/intel/intelreport/article.jsp?aid=249
Following are the major beliefs of the Lost Cause advocates:
Following are the beliefs about the Lost Cause from revisionist historians:
- Slavery was merely one issue in the war; it was not important or central to the warís causation.
- The real reason for the war was a difference of opinion about the Constitution. The South believed that the North had seriously limited their Constitutional rights and the right of the Southern states to make their own political, economic, and social decisions. The real issue then, was not slavery but liberty - the need of the South to liberate itself from the oppression of Northern industrialists who advanced their interests through taxes, railroad subsidies, and growing industrialization at the expense of Southern planters and farmers.
- The Confederate soldiers not only fought a noble battle of honor in the name of liberty, they also fought a better fight than the enemy. They were defeated only by "overwhelming numbers and resources" as Robert E. Lee told his grieving soldiers at Appomattox.
- Southern whites were the victims of the War of Northern Aggression which attempted to rob Southerners of their liberty.
- The Confederate flag stands not for slavery, but for a courageous search for liberty in the face of such aggression.
- Many contemporary historians argue that the South did not secede for either states rights or liberty - but rather to protect the institution of slavery.
- Surviving Southerners like Jefferson Davis and Vice-President Stephens created the Lost Cause myth to help southern whites deal with the shattering reality of a catastrophic defeat in a war they felt certain they would win.
- In the end, historian Gary Gallagher notes in The Myth of the Lost Cause, "White Southerners emerged from the Civil War thoroughly beaten but largely unrepentant."
Andersonville - The infamous Confederate prisoner of war camp for Union soldiers. Located in south-central Georgia, construction began in December of 1863. Six-hundred prisoners from Libby Prison in Richmond, Virginia arrived on February 24, 1864. On completion the walls formed a rectangle of rough hewn pine standing 15-20 feet in height and built on a sixteen and one-half acre tract intended to house no more than ten thousand prisoners. The prisoners were originally only to be held until they could be exchanged for Confederate prisoners held by the Union as an agreement then existed for such exchanges. During the 14 months that Andersonville was in operation, it held slightly over 45,000 prisoners .The total number of dead was nearly 13,000. Although death rates were high in other civil war prisons as well, none approached that of Andersonville. For more information, see http://www.law.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/Wirz/anders1.htm
Chapter 13: no questions
Chapter 15 and general concluding questions
Some general terms and names that might be helpful when reading the book:
Antebellem period - the period before the Civil War.
Appamatox - This was the location of the signing of the final surrender by General Robert E. Lee of the Confederate States of America to General Ulysses S. Grant of the Union forces on May 23, 1865.
Clara Barton - Barton worked as a nurse for the Union Army throughout the war, and also went to Andersonville after the war to help release and tend to the prisoners held therein. Known as the "Angel of the Battlefield," Barton's ministrations were quite successful. After the War, she founded the American Red Cross. For a good, but brief biography of Barton, see http://www.geocities.com/Athens/Aegean/6732/cb.html
Council of Conservative Citizens (CCC) - Founded in the 1950s, this organization calls itself one of the true voices of America's "far right." Tony Horwitz has an interesting discussion with one of its statewide leaders on pages 78-80. To see the CCC statement of purpose, click here: http://cofcc.org/?page_id=71
Hardtack - Hardtack is a cracker-like biscuit made of flour, salt and water and was one of the most typical rations issued to soldiers by the U. S. government because it was fairly nutritious and unlikely to spoil. This hard bread was made in government bakeries located in cities and shipped in barrels to the troops. Hardtack had to be tough to withstand the trip. Many Civil War soldiers complained about this ration noting the extreme hardness of the biscuits (sometimes called "teeth-dullers"), which at times had to be broken with a rifle "butt" or a "blow of the fist" to prepare for eating. Soldiers sometimes softened the pieces by soaking them in coffee, frying them in bacon grease, or crumbling them in soup. Hardtack could become infested with insects in the government storehouses or during the soldierís travels. One disappointed soldier claimed that "All the fresh meat we had came in the hard bread!" To learn more about hardtack and to get a recipe, see http://www.geocities.com/Pentagon/Barracks/1369/recipes.html
Jim Crow - a broad term used to describe the laws passed after Reconstruction - "Jim Crow" laws - that barred African Americans in the South from access to employment and to public places such as restaurants, hotels, and other facilities. Jim Crow laws were largely in place from 1877 through the 1960s. For a history of Jim Crow, see http://www.jimcrowhistory.org/
Johnny Reb - This is the nickname given to the rebel soldiers, the soldiers of the Confederacy. Confederate soliders were known as rebels because they began the rebellion against the United States government and created their own government - the Confederate States of America (CSA).
Matthew Brady - born in about1823, Brady met the inventor Samuel Morse who taught him about the daguerreotype process. In 1844, Brady opened a gallery in Washington and began taking the portraits of many famous Americans, including Abraham Lincoln. At the outbreak of the American Civil War, there was a dramatic increase in the demand for work at Brady's studios as soldiers wanted to be photographed in uniform before going to the front-line. In July, 1861 Brady and Alfred Waud, an artist working for Harper's Weekly, travelled to the front-line and witnessed Bull Run, the first major battle of the war. Soon after arriving back from the front Brady decided to make a photographic record of the American Civil War. He sent 23 trained men to take photos of all the battles. During the War, Brady spent over $100,000 in obtaining 10,000 prints. He expected the government to buy the photographs when the war ended. When the government refused to do this,he was forced into bankruptcy. Congress granted Brady $25,000 in 1875 but he remained deeply in debt. Depressed by his financial situation, Matthew Brady became an alcoholic and died the charity ward of Presbyterian Hospital in New York on 15th January, 1896. For a fantastic visual collection of Brady's photos, see any of the eight parts of the Ken Burn's video series, "The Civil War" - available at most video stores and for purchase on the Internet. For a sampling of some of his Civil War photographs, see http://www.multimedialibrary.com/FramesML/IM11/IM11.html